To preface this: this came up in a discussion among servants and youth, and we never reached a consensus. Personally, I am very much on the "yes" side of the debate, and so are many of the prominent voices on this forum, but I believe those who do not agree with us have valid concerns that must be addressed.
The discussion began when we did a veneration for St. Philopateer the night of his feast. There were around 10 of us (socially distanced with masks) with myself and 2 other deacons leading the rest. Among the congregation was an Ethiopian college student who does not read Coptic or Arabic. After we finished, one of the other servants came up to us and asked why we did not do all English for his sake, especially since us leaders know the Tamgeed in English. Our answer was... shrug. It didn't cross our minds at the time, and there wasn't very many of us in the room, so we went with what we do most of the time- a mix of English, Arabic, and Coptic.
The discussion continues until he says "I think that we should just do all English all the time. No more Coptic." Here's where I leave it to you.
A summary of the points talked about:
Common Ground (things we all agreed upon):
- It is crucial to understand the words of the hymns we say
- The current structure of service, and the societal forces that be, cause this to not be true.
- This is mainly due to 2 things: growing diversity in the Churches (including more people who did not grow up in the Church, and do not know Arabic or Coptic); and the Coptic being a language not spoken in people's houses.
- This is a hindrance to Church growth and unity.
- The end goal is to have a congregation that is in unity with the deacons' chorus, saying the hymns and responses in once voice with full understanding.
- Said understanding can be in English or Coptic- the goal is understanding.
(Coptic should remain a part of our Church services and rites)
(Again, this is where I stand, so please be aware that I have a bias.)
- We are the Coptic Church, and therefore knowing the language of our fathers and forefathers is important.
- There's a reason St. Samuel the Confessor was so against Arabic overtaking Coptic in the Church.
- The solution to the lack of understanding is to systematically and rigorously revive Coptic through the channels we already have (Hymns/Deacon Prep classes and Sunday School)
- Not everyone was as on-board as I was with the idea of teaching an entire generation Coptic, since they viewed it as unfeasible.
- The proposed alternative was that the translation is right there- anyone who does not already know what the hymn says can glance 5 inches to the left or right and learn. Again, I don't think this is enough, but it is a valid point.
- The hymns have a meaning and depth that only comes from Coptic, and changing them into English loses that depth.
- St. Paul says that using tongues is acceptable as long as one can understand what is said (1 Corinthians 14). The translation is there (or people know the language), so we are in the clear.
- The deacons and leaders all know the hymns in Coptic. To teach them in English would require the translation, modification (so the words do not sound clunky or out-of-place with the melody of the hymn), and standardization across the Church, and THEN teaching said standardized version to the congregation.
- If we switch to all English, many of the original hymns and, with them, a part of our Church's history will fade away.
(Coptic should not be a part of our Church services and rites- instead, the local language [usually English] should be used.)
- We are the Alexandrian Church. What links us is not hymns or language, but faith. That is more than strong enough to unite us as a Church.
- "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations..."- not Egypt, or specific nations, but all. Therefore, the Church must have open arms to
- It is soooo much easier to learn the hymns in English because you know the language! Why add an extra step?
- Coptic is a dead language. Why devote time to learning it when we could better spend that time learning the sayings of the fathers, or memorizing scripture?
- Language drives converts away. A study was done in Coptic churches that showed that the biggest reason for converts feeling unwelcome was language (Arabic or Coptic).
- No one nowadays truly knows Coptic- instead, they know how to translate the words in their head.
- Someone reading a Coptic word first has to translate it to English or Arabic, understand that word's meaning, and put in in the context of the rest of the sentence. That's so many unnecessary steps!
- The depth of the hymns is in their melody, not the language they're in.
- On Pentecost, the Spirit did not cause everyone to understand the language the Apostles were speaking- it caused everyone to hear them in their native tongue. Our native tongue is English. When the Church speaks to us, it should be in our native tongue.
I have responses to those points, but I want to open this discussion to you all: Should we stop using Coptic in the Church?